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'Pernicious propaganda' – Richard Murphy blasts report critical of Calton Hill plans

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Richard Murphy has described as ‘pernicious propaganda’ a report criticising his approved plans for Edinburgh’s Category A-listed Royal High School

The report was written by Arup on behalf of the developers Duddingston House Properties and the Urbanist Group, which are backing a rejected, rival project for the same site by Hoskins Architects.

The Arup document attacks Murphy’s plans, which were unanimously approved by City of Edinburgh Council in August 2016, claiming they would ‘expose the existing building to considerable residual risk of movement and damage during construction’.

The latest broadside follows another critical report of Murphy’s scheme, also by Arup, published in February. 

The new report further concludes that Murphy’s proposals, which are backed by Royal High School Preservation Trust, would need ‘significant amendments to reflect the engineering requirements of building safely beneath the existing building’.

Murphy has hit back at the report, branding it as ‘childish’ on the part of the developers. Murphy’s scheme would create a 300-seat concert hall in the former Royal High School debating chamber, with a new foyer beneath and a publicly accessible garden. 

‘We have planning permission, so whatever [the developers] think is irrelevant,’ he said. ‘This is a childish conversation. The important thing is we have the consent. It’s too late for them to come out with silly observations like that.

‘It is pernicious propaganda by the hotel [developers], that Arup never should have got involved in. I’m slightly surprised that a company as prestigious as Arup has allowed itself to be used in such an obvious way.’ 

Hoskins Architects’ controversial £75 million hotel redevelopment plans for the disused 1829 masterpiece overlooking the Scottish capital were narrowly rejected in 2015. The developer subsequently appealed.

However, in February this year, Hoskins submitted yet another revised proposal for the site – effectively its third attempt at winning the go-ahead since landing £70 million job to transform the Classical building back in early 2010.

Duddingston House Properties won a council-led competition to transform the Neoclassical building in 2010, but the established contract, which the AJ understands will remain in place until 2022, is subject to planning permission being granted. 

The contract means that, while Murphy’s plans have been approved, construction will not start on the music hall until the existing agreement with Duddingston has been negotiated or terminated. 

Arup’s report has been submitted to the City of Edinburgh Council in advance of the planning committee for Hoskins’ revised application, which is expected to take place on 31 August.

The Royal High School

The Royal High School has not been in public use since 1968. Built on Calton Hill in 1829, it is one of Edinburgh’s most imposing landmarks. A number of proposals for the school have fallen by the wayside, including plans to move the Scottish Assembly into the building in the 1970s and a more recent scheme for a £20 million National Photography Centre.

Old Royal High School

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Following their less than distinguished involvement in the Garden Bridge saga, can it be that Arup these days is suffering from senior management that prioritises bringing in the dosh over and above their professional integrity?

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